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Updated: August 12, 2010 16:01 IST

Celestial treat for sky gazers tonight

PTI
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A reservoir is seen under the sky in Prachinburi province, northeastern Thailand in the early hours on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2009, as the Leonid meteor shower nears its peak. A file photo: AP
AP A reservoir is seen under the sky in Prachinburi province, northeastern Thailand in the early hours on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2009, as the Leonid meteor shower nears its peak. A file photo: AP

Perseids meteor showers will light up the night sky tonight giving sky-gazers an opportunity to watch shooting stars.

Perseids, a prolific meteor shower, is associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle.

“Around 11.30 PM to 2 AM one can expect a Zenithal Hour Rate (ZHR) of about 100—120 meteors per hour,” said N Sri Raghunandan Kumar from Planetary Society of India.

Thus, one can expect one meteor in every two minute, he added.

To watch the meteor shower, one should concentrate towards the northeastern sky as the shooting stars, as they are also called, will be more visible in the direction, Mr. Kumar said.

The Earth is expected to pass through a denser-than-usual filament of dust from Perseid’s parent comet Swift—Tuttle, Science Popularisation Association of Communicators and Educators (SPACE) Director C B Devgun.

The meteors are named Perseids because the point they appear to come from, lie in the constellation Perseus.

He said the meteors can be seen all across the sky, but because of the path of Swift-Tuttle’s orbit, Perseids are primarily visible in the northern hemisphere.

Astronomers have been observing Perseid meteor showers for about last 2,000 years, with the first known information coming from the Far East, Mr. Devgun said.

In early medieval Europe, the Perseids came to be known as the “tears of St. Lawrence.” In 1839, Eduard Heis was the first observer to take a meteor count and discovered that the Perseids had a maximum rate of around 160 per hour.

Meteors are also called “shooting stars,” startling streaks of light that suddenly appear in the sky when small particles from space evaporate due to friction in Earth’s atmosphere.

“To watch the meteor showers go to an area where pollution is at its minimum. The best time would be around midnight, by then Perseus constellation will be fairly high above the horizon. The hour or two before dawn will be best of all,” Mr. Devgun advised sky-gazers.

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